It’s cheap and easy to have homemade chicken stock on hand: all you really need is time. And thyme. But mostly time.
Sure, it can be expensive–I still can’t get over The Barefoot Contessa’s recipe which calls for not one, not two, but THREE whole chickens that you boil for three hours and discard. That seems extraordinarily wasteful, don’t you think?
I’ve played around with lots of stock recipes, but my latest foray into stock making was a pretty happy one. The recipe comes from Molly Stevens and it’s simple and straightforward and cheap, cheap, cheap.
What makes it so cheap is that you use chicken backs. I bought 5 lbs of chicken backs from Key Food for less than $5. I was slightly hesitant, at first, because unlike the chickens I normally buy–which are either organic or free-range or both–they only had generic chicken backs (along with generic chicken feet, chicken necks, and gizzards.) Here’s how I rationalized my purchase: the economics of chicken production are such that companies don’t make their money from selling chicken backs, feet, etc. They make their money from whole chickens, chicken thighs, and–most definitely–chicken breasts. So buying generic chicken backs, while not ideal, most likely doesn’t affect much in the factory farmed chicken industry. In fact, if you want to put a positive spin on it, you’re ensuring that this chicken–which may have been a tortured, unhappy chicken–didn’t die just for its breast and thighs. You’re honoring the animal by using all of its parts.
Anyway, I got sidetracked. You’re here for a stock recipe, right? Ok, here’s what you do. When you buy your backs (4 lbs), also buy 1 medium onion, 1 medium carrot, 1 celery stalk, 5 thyme sprigs, 5 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf and 6 black peppercorns. (Ok, I doubt you can buy just 5 parsley sprigs, but you get the idea.)
Now the cooking.
1. Heat the oven to 400F; wash and pat very dry the chicken backs. Place in a single layer in a roasting pan…
…and roast, turning hafway through, for 35 minutes until golden brown.
2. Now transfer the chicken pieces to a deep stockpot; pour off the excess fat from the roasting pan and put the pan on two burners on medium heat. Pour in 1/2 cup of water (enough to cover the bottom) and scrape up all the bits and drippings. Pour this seasoned water into the stock pot and add the chopped yellow onion, the chopped medium carrot, the chopped celery stalk, the peppercorns and all the herbs tied together (so you can fish them out later.) Now fill the pot with cold water to cover the bones by about 1 inch (it’s about 10 1/2 cups of cold water), GENTLY bring to a simmer over medium heat and let it simmer gently–GENTLY! (“Princess Bride,” anyone?)–for 3 hours. Skim the surface as it goes and never, EVER let it boil or you’ll have greasy cloudy stock. (Confession: mine boiled for a brief second, but I quickly took it off the heat to rescue it.)
3. Three hours later, you’re basically done. Strain the stock–get rid of all the solids–and refrigerate. The next morning, remove all the fat from the top and you’ve got stock, baby. I measured out 4 cup portions which I put in Tupperware and stored in the freezer. This recipe yielded 12 cups of stock; so I have 3 containers ready to go. Isn’t that pretty cool? $5 worth of chicken backs yielded 12 cups of golden chicken stock that’ll make my food taste restaurant quality.
And that’s chicken stock for ya, 1, 2, 3.